News: Sound Advice

Sound Advice

Last week I talked about the video / image side of things, and as promised here is the audio side.

Sound is integral to all studio productions, but for most student and low budget production, it's the last thing filmmakers seem to think about, and one of the most noticeable problems with low budget stuff.  Sound IS half the experience, and yet it is usually all but forgotten come production.

The good news is it's not too difficult or terribly expensive (relative to video equipment), to get great sound.  Below is my list for production sound 101 (sound mixing and editing will be covered in another article).

  1. Recorder - The 7d (and all Canon HDSLRs) suck at sound.  Getting a simple external recorder can solve this problem.  Low budget recorders start around $300.  The Zoom H4n looks to be a popular recorder for these cameras.  There are many others, basically you want to look for Phantom Power (or 48v) to power your mic, XLR inputs, 24-bit recording, and SD or CF card recording.
  2. Mic - The mic is far more important than the recorder, but you need both to get good sound with these cameras.  Audio Technica makes a good mic, and Rode has another.  They are both $250, but you can spend a lot more.  Sennheiser makes really good stuff, if you have a bit more.  Like the MKH-416 (this is the mic I use).  If you can, get a few different mics and test them out on various sources.  Pick the one you like best.
  3. Boom Pole - Poles are unfortunately expensive, but absolutely essential.  PSC and K-Tek are good choices.  K-tek's Avalon Boom Poles are relatively inexpensive and worth checking out on a budget.  Most of the time you don't need a pole longer than 6', but there are times when you might.  If you know that wide shot, dialogue scenes aren't your thing then you might be able to save some money on a shorter boom.
  4. Wind Screen - Another must, wind noise is a killer for good audio.  Rycote makes great stuff.  Their S-Series is affordable and will block the wind way better than any softie.  It also provides a mount to your boom pole or a mic stand. 
  5. Headphones - Sony, Beyerdynamic, and Audio Technica are great choices.  You don't need to go nuts here.  Decent headphones can be found for around $100.  I personally like the Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro and Audio Technica ATH-M50, but these Sony's are good too.
  6. Cables - A few good XLR cables are great to have around.  You will use them to hook up your mic to the recorder.  25-50 feet is a good length for most stuff.  If you have a dedicated sound guy, than a 10-15 feet is fine, since the recorder will be on the sound guy.
  7. Slate - You will need this to sync the sound together with the video.  This slate is cheap and will get the job done.  There is also a great iPhone called Movie*Slate, I use it for all my shoots now. But a trusty mechanical slate is always good to have.   

This is essentially what I use for my productions and it works extremely well for most situations.  Just having a shotgun mic off of the camera, pointed closely at your subject will improve the sound a ton. 

In future articles I will explain how to create convincing soundtracks for your productions.

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